The End of Summer

I know I’m in the minority, but I’m soooo not ready for school to start (insert teenager-“Whatever!”-attitude right here)—not even the slightest bit of excitement.

Other moms I know are doing the back-to-school-dance. They’ve spent hours shopping for school supplies, healthy lunch box treats, and snazzy first-day outfits. They’re co-ordinating carpools and color coding calendars while neatly filling out classroom volunteer forms.

But sorry, that’s not me. I’m a raving hypocrite as I ask the school-age children in my life if they’re excited to go back. The forced smile on my face tries to reflect their enthusiasm for a new year. Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and brand new erasers, right? (gag)

I try to crank up my force-smile a notch for the kids who aren’t excited or who are down right nervous, trying to convince them that it isn’t that bad. But you know what? This year, it does seem that bad.

Last week, we attended Back-to-School-Night… preview night, sneak-a-peek night, meet the teacher night. Whatever you call it, it was two and a half hours of the last 48 hours of my summer spent inside a school building while I listened to the school calendar mockingly call “Ready or not, here I come!”. I looked at the textbooks waiting to be covered, the pages of flashcards needing to be cut apart, and the stack of papers demanding to be organized, and felt nothing but dread.

Earlier that afternoon, I mulched until there was little time to shower and then ordered a pizza at the shop near the school. While our kids played on the school playground, Daniel and I sat on a bench and ate somewhat lazily, not caring if we were a couple minutes late for the opening address.

We watched the parking lot fill up, parents and children almost danced into the building, dressed to impress while sporting crisp haircuts, anticipating a fresh start as we slackers doled out greasy slices and half-heartedly told the kids to finish up.

After all the activities were through for the evening, I saw a mother who I know beyond the school walls and asked her if she was ready.

“No!” was her emphatic answer.

Thank you, I’m not the only one.

You see, I took summer seriously. I put away (most of) my deadlines and expectations after I finally finished my ten month painting project in May. (Yes, ten months… I know… pathetic)

sofa 2
After (curtains courtesy of my mother-in-law)
b4 bookase

Since my canning shelves were still decently full, I excused myself from my summer all day/late night projects of freezing, juicing, and canning… for the most part. And although I did a small amount of writing, editing felt like monumental work; hence my recent silence (my sincere apologies). I toyed with starting another painting project or at least beginning to tackle my filmy windows, but instead…

I played. No, really… played.

I played with paper, scissors and glue, spending several mornings creating cards.

I played bookworm, reading six and a half novels (no less) in ten weeks (definitely a record since high school)…. thousands of pages of pure entertainment.

I played outside… at the ocean, in the dessert, at two campgrounds, in the dirt, and on some boulders.

Ice cream cone
Camping Trip Treat


Gifford Pinchot State Park


Hiking in Sedona, AZ


ocean sunset
Sunset at Harvey Cedars, NJ

I played with new recipes, trying new techniques.

Removing the pith from an orange for orange cookies… Who does this?

I played hostess… sometimes on a whim and sometimes with careful (but fun) preparation.

Preparing Dessert for 12 (Photography by Ian)

(I also became a professional water balloon filler.)

water balloons

I had fun. I don’t want it to end. I feel like the boy who just realized his lego time is about to be cut to practically non-existent once that yellow bus starts appearing each morning.

Not my Alice though, she apparently doesn’t care that her extensive reading time will soon be thoroughly sliced and diced. She’s excited to board the bus, to use fresh markers, to write in cursive, and to be with friends. She spent the evening before the first day of school happily labeling folders and cutting apart those twelve pages of flashcards (yippee!).

first day
First Day of School – she picks the clothes

And since she is excited, I will get excited too.

However I think I learned a very valuable lesson this summer, one that I have always thought about in terms of my children, but not in terms of adults. What I learned this summer is the importance of play… for adults …for myself.

I truly feel like I had a great summer, in many ways, floating on a cloud from one adventure to the next. Of course, I can’t continue (afford) to vacation during the next nine months like we did this summer. But this summer I learned that playing isn’t just about vacationing; it’s about small endeavors too, the activities that make you smile and give you a lighter spirit when you’re finished.

As we move into the routine of the school year, if I take the time to play in small ways, like crafting a card or trying a new recipe or reading a book from cover to cover in one day, maybe at the end of the school year I’ll simply say, “That was fun. I don’t want summer to start.”


Daniel found this article about play. It inspired my thinking.

One thought on “The End of Summer”

  1. Thanks Natalie. I really liked this one. I think you did well by your family too. The kids were great whenever they were here and played well together. Somehow I see their behavior here as an indicator of things going well at home. Keep up the good work. Now I think I have to work on my playing a bit, lately I feel a bit overwhelmed with all the work staring at me.

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